The development, which also includes a one million square foot marine hub, will destroy an area that supports 30% of the UK’s population of dark‐bellied brent geese, an important mudflat that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is home to diverse populations of fish, invertebrates and micro-organisms.
The RSPB and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust say the plans to concrete and build over 67acres of mudflat will devastate local wildlife, undermine nature laws, and make a mockery of action to tackle the climate and ecological crises.
The damaging impacts of the development will be felt across the country.The proposed site is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and a Ramsar wetland of international importance in recognition of its value for wildlife.If plans go ahead, they will set a dangerous precedent for building over protected habitats nationwide. If an area with the highest level of protection for wildlife can be destroyed and built upon, nowhere will be safe for nature anymore.
Commenting on the planned development Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said:
“These vital natural resources, once lost, can’t be replaced or compensated for. We urgently need to re-think development at a local and national level. In the drive to ‘build, build, build’, we can’t just ride roughshod over legal safeguards and turn our back on commitments to avert an ecological catastrophe.
“If we don’t start prioritising nature’s recovery, our cities will quickly become uninhabitable for both wildlife and people.”
Each winter, thousands of dark-bellied brent geese fly over 2,500 miles from their arctic breeding grounds in northern Siberia to feed in Portsmouth Harbour. Not only would the proposed development affect the geese, dunlin, black‐tailed godwits and many other wintering waders that would also lose an important winter habitat, the mudflats are home to a thriving ecosystem which is a nursery ground for commercially important fish such as bass.
The wildlife charities also point out that the mudflats are vital to our fight against the climate crisis, as they play a key role in capturing and locking away carbon from the atmosphere. The development would cause disturbance to the mudflats, causing them to release the carbon dioxide currently locked away and reduce the ability of the mudflats to store more.
Nick Bruce-White, RSPB Operations Director for Southern England, said:
“This is one of the most significant threats to wildlife from a development we have seen in recent times, not just locally, but nationally. Portsmouth Harbour is of international importance, especially for its wintering waterbirds, such as brent geese, black tailed godwits, and other wading birds. The development will utterly destroy vital feeding and roosting grounds as well as causing long-term disturbance to any wildlife that remains. “We find it difficult to believe, in the current climate and ecological emergency, that a proposal to drain and concrete over an area with the highest level of protection for wildlife is even being considered at all by the planners. We also question whether the £8m proposed to merely prepare the planning application is best use of money right now”.
Recent lockdowns have highlighted the need for green spaces within cities to help improvethe mental health and well-beingof the community. The RSPB’s recent Greenspace Report detailed strong public support for nature, with eight out of ten people agreeing that the number of nature-rich areas should be increased. Similarly,Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust conducted a survey during the first lockdown which showed almost unanimous support (99%) for governments’ role in making sure there is more accessible green space in urban environments.
The wildlife charities are calling for Tipner West to remain protected for wildlife and safeguarded as much needed green space for the city’s residents to enjoy.
The public are being asked to support a petition opposing this development.